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Book Review: Make Bright The Arrows

February 3, 2020

My sister, Jennifer Bliss wrote a book. That’s actually not that surprising. My older brother wrote a book and is working on his next one. I wrote a couple of books and am working on my next one. I’m sure at some point my younger brother may write a book.

We write what we know. I wrote a book about the first version of Microsoft Exchange, called Microsoft Exchange Connectivity Guide. My older brother is a brilliant marketer. His book, Stealing The Show, is about building a unique corporate brand. My sister isn’t a marketer or a computer person. But, still, she wrote what she knows. Her book is about mental health. It’s largely autobiographical.

Yes, you read that correctly, my sister’s book is about her own mental health struggles. It’s a story of tragedy and triumph. You see, my sister Jennifer has had a long and largely successful career. She was a school teacher. She was a school administrator. She worked in state government and is currently a manager in Washington State’s office of mental health services.

Oh, and she’s also spent a lot of time in hospitals for those with mental health issues. More than once I worried that she would be successful in her suicide attempts.

Make Bright The Arrows, is also a poem by Edna St Vincent Millay published in 1940. Jennifer quotes many poems, songs and even jokes about mental health in her book. Her book will not explain how to overcome mental illness. It will not explain the details, history and future of mental health.

Her book is a journey. Her journey. She won’t tell you how to live with your mental health issues. She will tell you how she lives with hers.

I’ve grown up with my sister. Her issues are not a surprise to me. I’m not sure what I expected to discover in her book. Some of the stories I knew. Some I did not. I didn’t expect to learn how many times she’d attempted to kill herself. I didn’t realize how many times a conversation with me might have been instrumental in helping her get through the day.

What I Liked

My sister has a wonderful literary voice. Even when discussing some of the more esoteric aspects of mental health, she keeps the narrative moving briskly. She is also extremely self aware. She is able to discuss her own issues and weaknesses. She’s extremely open about her life and how it has been affected by struggles with mental health. She finishes the book with several personal stories. I found these both reassuring and horrifying. I recognized the details of many of them, but only after reading the full story did I understand the true import of what was happening.

What I Didn’t

Frankly, I didn’t like a lot of it. Not because it wasn’t well written. But, simply because it was. My dislike is personal and in no way would impact another’s enjoyment of her excellent book.

What It Means For You

Diagnoses of anxiety and depression have become so prevelant that virtually everyone is either affected by it, or knows someone who is. While Make Bright The Arrows will not tell you how to deal with your own challenges, or even exactly how to deal with a loved one. But, most importantly, it provides hope. Hope that a diagnosis of mental illness is not a sentence to a disadvantaged life. Because what Jennifer Bliss most portrays in her stories and discussions is the idea you can live a successful and satisfying life. Her way may not be your way. But, just knowning there is a way is comforting.

My Rating

Ha. Have you ever been asked if you sister is beautiful? If you gave any answer other than “Of course!” I hope you’ve had time to repent.

I could no sooner rate her book than I could fly.

I do however, recommend it without reservation.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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(c) 2020 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

From → Book Reviews

  1. Jennifer Bliss permalink

    Thank you. That was very touching and meaningful. Sometimes I’m not glad u write it, but mostly I am glad to be able to say there is a path forward. Love you

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